International Women’s Day sees protests in the Philippines

16 March 2012 at 3:34 pm

A September report in Newsweek brought the headline “In Asia, the Philippines is the best place to be a woman” to numerous publications in the country as well as to online news and social media sites.

And yet on Thursday, International Women’s Day, Manila’s streets filled up with thousands of women marching and rallying in protest alongside members of partner activist groups.

International Women’s Day is a global day dedicated to celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women. It honors women in the United States and Europe who fought for their right to vote in the early 1900s, celebrates women’s success and shines the spotlight on problems still to be addressed.

Gabriela, the largest organization of women in the country, led a march on Mendiola Bridge and Plaza Miranda against “unabated price hikes” in petroleum and other staple products as well as a rally to protest increasing U.S. military presence in the country. (About 6,800 Filipino and U.S. troops will hold annual combat exercises in April near disputed territories in the South China Sea.)

At Saint Joseph’s College, owned by Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, more than 200 women gathered for the Ecumenical Women’s Forum for liturgy, a forum and fellowship. The forum, made up of 15 groups that work with Christians, Muslims and indigenous people, took the theme “Women Celebrating, Affirming the Continuing Struggle for Life and Human Dignity Amidst Crisis and Poverty.”

Goods and crafts produced by various groups and sectors were sold during the gathering, including the book That She May Dance Again, which presents the research of Maryknoll Sr. Nila Bermisa and teams of Catholic women religious and laypeople working on violence against women in the Catholic church.

Ibon Foundation’s research found that there were 975,000 female overseas Filipino workers as of 2010. More than half of the women worked as laborers or unskilled workers. Still, with the highest unemployment rate in Southeast Asia at 7.4 percent in the Philippines, the women are left with little choice but to look outside the country for livelihood, Bisenio said.

The Philippines government poverty-reducing cash conditional transfer program (CCT) gives cash grants to the poorest families in identified municipalities with children or to pregnant women who meet certain health and education requirements.

Its name, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, reflects its aim to help the “Filipino family to crossover” from a state of survival to subsistence.

But Bisenio called CCT “anti-poor and anti-women,” criticizing its budget increase from 10 billion pesos ($234.7 million) in 2010 to 39.5 billion ($927 million) in 2011, even though the program has not been evaluated.

At the end of CCT, “Will there be ample jobs services for all?” Bisenio asked. “Will [CCT] provide agricultural support, which majority of the population of poor Filipinos will need? Will it have industries?”

Meanwhile, she cited the 2006 National Statistics Office Family Planning Survey that revealed that for every 100,000 live births in the Philippines, 162 women die during pregnancy and childbirth or shortly after childbirth.

Women who are pregnant (26.6 percent) and lactating (11.7 percent) were found to be underweight by the 2003 National Nutritional Survey. Almost half of each group was anemic, Bisenio said.

Extracts from a longer news story at

Entry filed under: 2012 03 08. Tags: .

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International Women's Day!March 8th, 2012
IWD is celebrated all over the world on 8th March

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